Arbery Slaughter’s defense attorney is known to cross the line
Atlanta When a defense attorney in the trial of three men accused of killing Ahmud Arbery called for black priests to be barred from entering the courtroom, shock and anger spread across the country. But for people familiar with courtroom style, that was no surprise.
Kevin Gough, the former senior public defender whose local chapter of the NAACP got him fired five years ago, is known in legal circles for his dramatic courtroom style.
“I’m not totally shocked by what everyone has been shocked about. It’s just a classic Kevin Gove,” said Wes Wolff, who covered Gove as a court reporter for the Brunswick News from 2016 to 2020.
Wolf said in an interview with The Associated Press that Gove often pushes the envelope if he thinks it will benefit his client. “It doesn’t seem to bother him that it causes people to rub the wrong way, nor does it seem to bother him that it angers the judges,” Wolf said.
Gough did not respond to an email and text message requesting comment.
The attorney, representing William “Rudy” Bryan, has repeatedly argued that the presence of prominent civil rights leaders and pastors could threaten his client’s right to a fair trial. Brian, along with his father and son Greg and Travis McMichael, are charged with murder and other crimes in the February 2020 shooting of a 25-year-old black man near the coastal city of Brunswick, Georgia.
Gough is no stranger to controversy and media attention.
Appointed to head the Brunswick Judicial District Attorney’s Office in 2012, he oversaw five counties in Southeast Georgia, but was fired after nearly four years.
In an April 2016 dismissal letter, Georgia Public Defense Board Executive Director Brian Tyson wrote that Gove’s behavior and history of poor management decisions left Tyson no choice but to impeach. Among other things, Tyson wrote in the nine-page letter, that Gough “engaged in a media campaign designed either to secure your re-nomination, to discredit the attorney general, or both.”
In a TV interview two weeks ago, Gove accused the local attorney general of holding cases hostage – wasting taxpayer money and violating his clients’ rights to a speedy trial – in the hope that Gough wouldn’t be reappointed and she could file cases once he’s gone – he’s gone.
The Brunswick NAACP raised concerns about the attorney general’s office, and the day after his dismissal, Gough threatened a hunger strike “unless and until” the cases were addressed.
Reverend Zack Lyde, who said he received complaints to the local NAACP at the time, vehemently opposed Gove’s firing and credited him with bringing in talented public defenders who were in fact winning cases against the attorney general’s office.
“It was very exciting for me because I saw … a huge number of poor people, especially black people, who were held back by the system,” he said in a phone interview.
Lyde said he believes Gough is a skilled defense attorney who does whatever is needed to help clients, so he doesn’t object to Gough’s call to prevent black pastors from entering the courtroom.
“I assure you,” he said, “if I had to hire a criminal attorney to defend me in Glenn County, Gough would be the man.”
As Reverend Jesse Jackson sat in the courtroom on Monday, Gough told the judge that civil rights icons had no reason to be there. “With all due respect, I would suggest, whether intended or not, that a juror inevitably be affected by his presence in the courtroom,” Gough said.
In addition to his objections to the presence of Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton, who sat with Arbery’s parents in the courtroom last week, Gove said the judge violated the US Constitution by holding the court on Veterans Day and raised a host of other concerns, often repeating the same objections. many times.
Supreme Court Justice Timothy Walmsley quietly dismissed most of Gove’s objections, but said he found some of the attorney’s comments as he protested the presence of black priests “reprehensible.”
McMichaels’ lawyers have, at times, distanced themselves from Gove. After Gough’s initial request that black pastors be removed from the courtroom, Jason Sheffield, one of Travis McMichael’s attorneys, called the comments “utterly ridiculous.”
Big Pat, a veteran criminal defense attorney in Atlanta who opened an office in Brunswick several years ago, has been keeping a close eye on the trial. He said he doesn’t see a good defensive strategy in making proposals that would undoubtedly be rejected and potentially have the opposite effect of what Gove says he wants.
Largely due to Gough’s comments, Sharpton called on black pastors to come down to Brunswick to demonstrate outside the courtroom on Thursday.
“Either he’s working on some strategy that none of us can yet realize or imagine, or he’s wrong,” Pat said.
He doesn’t know Pat Gough personally, but says he has a reputation as a “weird” and “strange bird”.
Nobody says he’s an incompetent lawyer. I don’t hear that at all, Pat said in a phone interview. “What I hear is that he’s just a weird character.”
Goff’s surprising statements as the prosecution’s case proceeded were largely outside the presence of the jury. As soon as he began to address the jurors directly, he presented his case calmly and methodically.
With a high-profile experience watching people across the country, it would be easy to assume that Gough is performing for cameras. Wolf said, but it was just himself.
“Most of the events I dealt with in Brunswick, I was the only reporter in the room and I don’t think he knew I was there,” Wolff said. “He’s an artist when he wakes up in the courtroom.”
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